Martin and Mullins hope rain won't hit Grand plans
The Fairyhouse management are not the only ones keeping an eye on the weather as leading trainers attempt to firm up plans for the final Irish Grand National under the Powers Whiskey banner.
While no less than 51 horses survived yesterday's latest acceptance stage for the traditional Easter Monday highlight, the likely state of the going at the Meath venue is uppermost in many minds ahead of the four-day festival.
Mercifully, just over six millimetres of rainfall materialised overnight and surface water on the worst-affected parts of the track was pumped away yesterday as conditions improved.
The final composition of a likely maximum field for the €250,000 feature was far from clear yesterday as trainers Tony Martin and Noel Meade echoed the ground concerns of several colleagues.
The regrettable defections of Jim Dreaper's Notre Pere and Jonjo O'Neill's Midlands National victor Synchronised leaves Meade's Aran Concerto, successful in the Powers Gold Cup a year ago, and the Dessie Hughes-trained Siegemaster as the joint top weights now.
But it's far from certain that Meade will be saddling a generally out-of-sorts Aran Concerto on a testing surface, with the novice Across The Bay confirmed from his yard, and Martin has warned that ante-post favourite Saddlers Storm is not a definite participant at this juncture.
Triumphant with David's Lad in the 2001 renewal, Martin fears this much-improved gelding -- due to be ridden by David Casey -- and stable companion Royal County Star, likely to be the mount of Robbie Colgan, won't be as effective in the mud as Hold The Pin and Lochan Lacha.
Willie Mullins could have as many as four runners as Leinster National hero Ballytrim may be joined by Pomme Tiepy, Equus Maximus and Polmar.
Another notable withdrawal was Becauseicouldntsee, runner-up in the Cheltenham's National Hunt Chase and as low as 9/1 in the betting
Yorkshire-based Ferdy Murphy has indicated an improvement in ground conditions is needed if he's to send over National Hunt Chase winner Poker De Sivola and Galant Nuit in search of a follow-up to Granit D'Estruval's 2004 success.